In 2004, the NFL started scheduling the reigning Super Bowl champion in the Thursday night season opener. It's a great move by the way. Kudos. In the last nine seasons, the champion has only lost once. Last year, the Giants were knocked off by the Cowboys 24-17. The eight previous games saw our champion win by varying margins. This means that since inception, the champion has never lost by more than a touchdown.
And yet Denver is favored by 7.5 points.
Does it feel a little disrespectful to Baltimore? Sure. But we threw respect out the window when we figured it was alright to play this game in Denver because the Orioles refused to reschedule their Thursday night game. For those who missed it, the reigning champion always has this game at home.
However, the Ravens and Orioles share a parking lot for their respective stadiums. The Orioles already had a baseball game scheduled for the evening of September 5, and rebuffed Roger Goodell's plea to move it to the morning. With the logistical nightmare that would be scheduling the use of both stadiums simultaneously, the NFL simply shuffled the game to Mile High.
Whatever. No big deal, right? Wrong, very big deal.
First of all, who do you think you are Baltimore Orioles? You have 81 home games. You are a mildly successful team in the wild card hunt, your fans will still show up to the morning game. You can't help out your hometown ally?
You are supposed to work together for the betterment of the city at large. And not only do you send the Ravens on the road, you send them to Denver, the best team in the AFC with one of the league's biggest home field advantages. You just come off as selfish and bitter and I hope you don't make the playoffs.
The Orioles are only saved by one fact - they didn't cost the Ravens the game, because they weren't going to win at home, anyways.
Let's get one thing straight. The 2013 Week 1 Ravens are not the same as the 2012 Postseason Ravens. Don't get it twisted. The Ravens experienced all kinds of player turnover this offseason. Be it Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, or Anquan Boldin, major impact players on both sides of the ball have moved on. Not to mention, a season-ending injury to tight end Dennis Pitta has left their offense crippled. Look at the roster, who are your offensive play-makers besides Ray Rice?
On the other hand, the Broncos are every bit as good as last year (except that pesky suspension Von Miller picked up) and they added the greatest slot receiver of our generation in Wes Welker, who just so happened to find his way onto my PPR league fantasy team.
If there is an easier quarterback transition than going from Tom Brady to Peyton Manning, let me know. The offense is potent, even without a bona fide starting running back (Montee Ball is going to produce just fine, there is always someone on that team who does). The defense can hold down the fort against the depleted Ravens offense. All things considered, I wouldn't be shocked if the Broncos blew the champs out of the water.
As I said, the road games doesn't take away the Ravens' advantage, it puts the final nail in their coffin. The 7.5 point line is perfectly justified. The Broncos are the better team, and they will be out for revenge for the defensive debacle that was last year's playoff game. I only keep the Ravens in this game out of respect for John Harbaugh and the toughness that has defined the Ravens for the past decade.
The Broncos roll early and coast to a 31-24 win to kick off the 2013 NFL season.
Welcome back, football. It's gonna be a great season.